By Manifesto Joe
I suppose one could call it poetic justice. And, keep in mind that I'm dealing in the broadest generalizations. But it looks as though America has seen and is seeing two very different generations, parents and children, facing inverted experiences.
The Greatest Generation (roughly 1901-1924) had hardscrabble beginnings. The oldest of these Americans were in the prime of life when the stock market crashed and the worst economic depression of modern times began. The youngest of them were children. The ones in the middle were about the age when you graduate from high school. Many saw dreams of college, businesses, and the better life those might bring, utterly destroyed.
We, the Baby Boomers, are mostly children of the Greatest Generation, at least one parent or the other. We're defined demographically as 1946-1964; culturally (Strauss & Howe, Generations, 1990) as more like 1943-1960, with the defining feature that we all came of age between 1960 and 1979, a unique, distinctive time.
There couldn't have been two generations in American history with more strikingly different experiences. The Greatest got their collective butt kicked early in life, first with the Great Depression and then World War II. From the latter, some didn't come back. Those who did came out of those experiences a cautious, culturally conservative group. Levittown homes. Eisenhower lawns. 2.3 kids and a dog. Get a job for life. Marry your hometown sweetheart and stay married for life. Church every Sunday. The favored investment: savings bonds (The war's over, dude!)
The Boomers? The contrast was incredible. I'm not going to say "we," because I wasn't entirely typical of my generation. But I went to college with enough people who were that I recognize the type.
They grew up during the cushiest times ever. The period of 1945-1973 is generally seen by economists as the time of ultimate American hegenomy. They were shielded from the harsher realities by their parents, who had definitely not been spared such experiences.
Their generation's war was Vietnam, a morally ambiguous, nasty quagmire that young men generally went out of their way to avoid. Contrast that with "The Good War," the one almost everyone agreed had to be fought and won, unconditionally.
Culture went very far left during the Boomer time. Have casual sex with different partners. Forget what your mama said, smoke that funny-smelling cigarette. Question authority. In fact, defy it. Listen to harsh music, to hell with that sweet, syrupy old stuff of your parents'. College is such a given, hell, why not just drop out and go back later, any old time you decide you're ready? We're all going to get old and die someday. So, let's get high, and let's get laid!
It's not that all of the above is entirely wrong -- but with 20/20 hindsight, it's just a little naive. People have to work, grow food and such. To do that, they have to be sober at least some of the time. Women occasionally get knocked up from sex, and it's a good idea for the kid to know, who's your daddy? Authority figures are indeed usually full of shit, but try it on yourself. You may sense fecal matter coming out of your own mouth at some point.
Now, after The Great Recession, and the semi-collapse of American prosperity, the Boomers face interesting poetic justice.
The Greatest came of age with poverty. As a generation, they seemed to turn it into a character-building passage. The Boomers, most of whom never tasted much if any poverty in youth, are now confronted with it.
One source estimates that since The Great Recession began, unemployment for 55-and-older workers has jumped 143 percent. This seems strange, considering that "futurist" projections back in that innocent time we now call the Nineties said that older workers were going to be needed more than ever by now.
The "futurists" were full of it about a lot of things. I recall their projections from even earlier. We were supposed to be working 25-hour weeks by now, and robots were supposed to be taking up more than enough of the slack. So it shouldn't surprise us that they were oh-so-wrong yet again.
A stereotypical lefty blogger post about this would be to decry the obvious discrimination against older workers; and, I ain't a fella to let you down. (Henry Fonda as Tom Joad will come back from the dead to get me for that.) Here's a petition you can sign to start fighting back against the misery we Boomers suddenly face.
But, back to the rest of the post: I try to avoid the stereotypical in this blog, so humor me. Perhaps there's something karmic in all this. We Boomers caused our parents a huge amount of grief, so maybe we're facing just desserts.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.